Nutrition advice for cold & flu prevention

Surviving winter with good nutrition

It’s that time of year again when the freezing weather makes you want to snuggle up with a hot drink on the sofa – but in reality we all have to face the cold and the prospect of coming into contact people who may have a cold or be carrying flu. You can’t walk around in a bubble, so there will be times when you can’t help but come into contact with viruses.

What can you do to protect yourself?

There are things that you can do to protect your health through the winter and make sure that your immune system is functioning at an optimal level. The following will help protect you from winter colds and flu (even Swine Flu!).

Vitamin C
You will all have heard that vitamin C can help with colds, but do you know how it helps and how much you should to take?

In cold or flu, viruses have to get inside the cells and reprogram them in order to reproduce more viruses, which then go on to infect other cells. If your body tissues have a high content of vitamin C then the virus cannot take over the cells as it cannot survive high concentrations of vitamin C.

There are many foods that contain vitamin C some higher than others. It is not true that orange juice contains enough vitamin C to ward off colds; in fact some oranges contain no vitamin C at all depending on how they have been produced. Broccoli and bell peppers contain higher vitamin C than many fruits. Berries are a very good source of vitamin C and Bioflanoids, which are highly protective against viruses, both of which work best together.

Vitamin C supplements should be taken as well as eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as this is the best way to keep your tissue levels high. The body cannot store vitamin C; it is water-soluble and will be lost through urine. To keep tissue levels high you need to consume it regularly throughout the day.

Taking 5 or 6 x 500mg doses of a high quality buffered vitamin C spread over the day should ward of any nasty winter bugs. The ‘buffered’ Vitamin C is important as ascorbic acid at this high a dose can irritate gut lining and cause diarrhoea.

Taking these amounts of vitamin C is also good for many other vital functions in the body including: energy production, detoxification, tissue repair and growth, bone growth and repair. It is cancer protective, keeps
copper levels under control, and works with zinc to boost our immune function.

NEVER take vitamin supplements with alcohol, or chlorinated unfiltered tap water as this can cause toxicity.

Vitamin D
In the winter months most people will suffer from vitamin D deficiency, as our main and best source of this is sunshine. Vitamin D is actually a hormone. The active form of vitamin D is created in our skin and sent to the kidney’s to be converted into a form that helps us build our bones. If we have enough it is then sent to other
organ tissues for various functions.

Vitamin D boosts immune function, reduces respiratory infections in children and adults, is cancer protective and guards against depression.


By far the best source is sunshine in the summer months (winter sun is too weak) without sunscreen for a short period of time (15-30 minutes). Food sources are poor as you cannot get enough, but the highest containing foods are: Oily fish: Salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Fortified foods like dairy – full fat rather than skimmed in general is best as Vitamin D is fat-soluble and by skimming off, the fat-soluble vitamins D and A are lost.

The recommended daily allowance is 400iu a day. Experts believe this is nowhere near enough and that 2000iu will have more of an effect. Too much vitamin D intake from supplementation can build up in the liver and can become toxic , so ideally take a supplement in the winter but not in the summer. Vitamin D from the sun does not become toxic in the body – so plenty of sunshine.

If everyone were tested for vitamin D content in the winter most people would be deficient. The best way to find out for definite if you are deficient you can get a fat-soluble vitamin blood test. Your GP can advise how to go about this, or you can arrange a test through a Nutritional Therapist.
For further reading on Vitamin D go to or read the book ‘The Vitamin D revolution’ by Soram Khalsa, M.D

Moderate exercise
Exercise has been shown to stimulate the immune system by increasing circulation and flushing out toxins and increasing nutrients to all areas of the body. Excessive exercise can decrease immunity however, as the white blood cells can be affected by the stress on the body.

Rest is a vital component to immunity, when we rest our immune function can be replenished. Getting enough sleep, time to relax and eating in a relaxed fashion can boost immunity.

Protective seasonal foods in the Winter
Make sure you add these foods to your diet this winter in large amounts:

Blackberries: rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and the dark pigment which makes up its colour anthocyanin. These prevent oxidative damage to cells which can lead to ageing, cancer and heart disease. Blackberries contain many tiny seeds which are a source of the soluble fibre pectin, therefore can encourage bowel movement and relieves diarrhoea.

Brussels sprouts: their high content of phytonutrients encourages the release of enzymes to stimulate antioxidants and increase detoxification. The high fibre content aids digestion and the vitamin C increases immunity against winter viruses.

Sweet Potatoes: contain the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin E and C which can protect against colds, disease and premature ageing.

Parsnips: contain potassium, which can reduce high blood pressure and silica, which can strengthen skin and connective tissue. Parsnips can help to detoxify the body as well as improve bowel action.

Carrots: highly concentrated in the antioxidant beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body which is essential for good vision. Beta-carotene can reduce the risk of toxin damage to cells, thereby reducing risks of cancer, ageing and heart disease. Carrots have a high fibre content which improves digestion and supports the liver. They are a source of the antioxidant vitamin C which can increase immunity.

Ginger: warms the body with it’s spicy heat and stimulates circulation. Good for winter colds as it reduces congestion in the throat and lungs. Has anti-inflammatory effects and can protect the digestive system.

Garlic: is anti-viral, antibacterial, boosts white blood cells and aids detoxification. Raw garlic is an expectorant – good for chest infections and coughs.

Tea Tree Oil
Contains eucalyptus oil which is highly anti-viral. anti-bacterial and even anti-fungal. Because the DNA of each Eucalyptus tree is different viruses cannot adapt and protect themselves from it. Keep some tea tree in your handbag and put on a tissue when in close contact to people on public transport, or keep a small water spray with a few added drops of tea trea oil and spray when needed to cleanse the air.

Coloidal Silver
Highly anti-viral, anti bacterial and anti-fungal. Can be used as protective medicine taken internally or protective on skin. This used to be what was used naturally as anti-bacterial medicine before antibiotics. Taken in large amounts during a cold you will need to take probiotics – as coloidal silver can have a similar effect on gut flora. It is safe for children to take this too.

About The Author

Sam Bourne is a qualified Nutritionist, registered with BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) who draws clients from Dulwich, Chelsea, Wandsworth and Central London.

Find out more about Sam’s work by visiting her GoToSee profile page here


For an appointment contact:
m: 07780 600 966
tel: 0203 3440468

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